South Pennines grouse moor has described an attempt by Natural England to ban heather burning on the estate?s blanket bog as ?unlawful, unfair, irrational and discriminatory?.

The High Court in Leeds has ordered a full judicial review later this month of the proposed ban, which the Walshaw Moor Estate says is a threat to employment, tourism and sustainable land management, and could put grouse moor management at risk.

The estate?s solicitor, Matthew Howarth, said: ?The case could have very serious consequences for both the ownership and management of grouse moors. Natural England has supported heather burning for many years and now seems to be doing a very worrying and inexplicable U-turn.?

?Walshaw Moor Estate is wholly committed to responsible land management practices and is looking for fairness from Natural England. So far, fairness has been sadly absent in their actions and we look forward to challenging them through the judicial review process.?

However, a spokesman for Natural England said the organisation was very concerned that sensitive habitats on the moor may have been damaged due to over intensive management.

He said: ?Walshaw Moor is a conservation site of international importance, given special protection at a national and European level for its rare habitats and upland breeding birds.?

?The notices that we have recently served are designed to avoid activities taking place that may prejudice the conservation objectives for the site. We await the High Court and Planning Inspectors? consideration of this matter in due course.?